These last few days of winter are a reawakening of nature’s rebirthing rhythms, with increased activity of all the wild creatures and birds around us, and most importantly, God’s renewal of our weary wintery hearts.
Some late winter and early spring mornings still are pitch black with blustering winds and rain, looking and feeling like the bleakest of December mornings about to plunge into the death spiral of winter all over again.
No self-respecting God would birth Himself into a dawn as dark as night.
But this God would.
He labors in our bleakest of hearts for good reason. We are unformed and unready to meet Him in the light, clinging as we do to our dark ways and thoughts. Though we soon celebrate the rebirth of springtime, it is just so much talk until we accept the change of being transformed ourselves.
Though soon the birds will be singing their hearts out and the frogs chorusing in the warming ponds, we, His people, are silenced as He prepares us and prepares Himself for birth within us. The labor pains are His, not ours; we become awed witnesses to His first and last breath when He makes all things, including us, new again.
The world and its creatures, including us, is reborn — even where dark reigned before, even where it is bleakest, especially inside our healing wintery hearts.
What word informs the world, and moves the worm along in his blind tunnel?
What secret purple wisdom tells the iris edges to unfold in frills? What juiced and emerald thrill
urges the sap until the bud resolves its tight riddle? What irresistible command
unfurls this cloud above this greening hill, or one more wave — its spreading foam and foil —
across the flats of sand? What minor thrust of energy issues up from humus in a froth
of ferns? Delicate as a laser, it filigrees the snow, the stars. Listen close — What silver sound
thaws winter into spring? Speaks clamor into singing? Gives love for loneliness? It is this
un-terrestrial pulse, deep as heaven, that folds you in its tingling embrace, gongs in your echo heart. ~Luci Shaw “What Secret Purple Wisdom” from The Green Earth: Poems of Creation ~
The road that took Him from wooden manger to wooden cross is one we walk in joy and terror through His Word.
He is given to us; He gives Himself to bring joy to our miserable and dark existence;
He dies for us; He rises to give us eternal hope of salvation; He calls us by name and we recognize Him.
This mystery is too much for too many unwilling to accept that such sacrifice is possible. His sacrifice and many parts of His body continue to be oppressed and persecuted every day. We are blind-hearted to the possibility that this Spirit that cannot be measured, touched, weighed or tracked can stir and overwhelm darkness. We prefer the safety of remaining tight in the bud, hid in the little room of our hearts rather than risk the joy and terror of full blossom and fruitfulness.
Lord, give us grace in our blindness, having given us Yourself. Prepare us for embracing your mystery.
Prepare us for joy. Prepare us to bloom.
What is the crying at Jordan? Who hears, O God, the prophecy? Dark is the season, dark our hearts and shut to mystery.
Who then shall stir in this darkness prepare for joy in the winter night? Mortal in darkness we lie down, blind-hearted, seeing no light.
Lord, give us grace to awake us, to see the branch that begins to bloom; in great humility is hid all heaven in a little room.
Now comes the day of salvation, in joy and terror the Word is born! God gives himself into our lives; Oh, let salvation dawn! ~Carol Christopher Drake
…all I know is that we must cultivate our garden… ~Voltaire from Candide
This year, once again, we’re late getting our garden in — there have been too many other things happening in our work and home life to even think about getting the garden in. Starting a garden in June is not something I recommend to anyone. It requires bushwhacking to make a suitable bed for the seeds.
Thankfully, my now newly retired husband — normally part-time farmer now full-time — was up to the job.
The weeds, never discouraged by cool rainy weather, have instead been emphatically encouraged. They grow with exuberance, happily seeding themselves, thank you very much. The garden plot had become a veritable forest to contend with before the soil could be prepared for seeding.
My husband set to work on the jungle on hands and knees, digging into the turf of weeds, loosening their grip, pulling them out, shaking off the clinging clumps of dirt from their roots and turning over fresh soil to dry in the sun under a fresh dressing of warm composted manure. Along with creating multiple trenches for our vegetable seeds and starts, we planted prayers that there was still enough time left in the growing season to actually bear a harvest.
I admit there are plenty of times my life feels like our neglected garden plot. If not kept tended, if not exposed to enough warmth and light, if not fertilized with the steaming loam from a well-composted manure pile, if not kept clear of the unwanted weeds that take hold and grow no matter what the weather conditions, there can be no harvest of value whatsoever. I will accomplish nothing other than sustaining self-sowing weeds for the next generation to battle.
I leave behind a life unrecognizable as a source of nurture as it is overrun by weed creep.
Each year we’re determined to do better but we know we’re running out of time and gardening seasons. It isn’t just the resultant sore back and dirty fingernails that serve as reminders of the hard work of tending one’s life like one’s soil. It is that burst of sweetness that comes from eating the first fresh peas, the sharp tang of a radish straight from the ground, the bowl of greens unsullied by chemicals, the onions, potatoes and squash stored away in the root cellar for winter consumption.
Most of all, it is the satisfaction of knowing we accomplished something wonderful with our own hands — guided gently by the ultimate Gardener who won’t allow a few weeds to overrun us.
With what deep thirst we quicken our desires to that rank odor of a passing springtime!
Must you taste everything? Must you know everything? Must you have a part in everything? ~William Carlos Williams from “Smell”
I realize I am not so different than my dogs rolling happily in the stinkiest thing they can find – I want to taste and know and be part of everything whether it is good or not:
I tend to douse myself with whatever I wish to carry with me through the rest of my days, even if smelling like something just died repels others.
Maybe, like my dogs, it is to conceal who I really am.
Maybe, like my dogs, I would rather fit in with the barnyard than a palace.
Or maybe, just like my dogs, I simply like getting down and dirty and too proud of it.
Human nature being what it is — the desire to blend in with the world’s sordid and sin-ridden surroundings — this is why I, like my dogs, am in constant need of a good bathing.
It would be best to smell like that rank odor of too-swiftly passing springtimes – we all need a renewal and reminder of our rebirth rather than immersion in the stench of death.
May I, like my dogs,
recognize I must be cleansed –
again and again and again.